Divers exploring Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula have discovered a 216-mile-long underwater cave, believed to be the biggest in the world.
The submerged wonderland – or Sac Actun cave system – is close to the beachside town of Tulum. It’s been the subject of a 10-month exploration programme by The Gran Acuífero Maya (GAM), led by underwater archeologist Guillermo de Anda. Last month they discovered it connects to the 51.5-mile-long Dos Ojos system (previously thought to be autonomous) and together, they form one long mega-cave.
This underwater warren, thought by the Maya people to be the entrance to the underworld, is something of a 2-for-1 discovery. Walls of the 200 small, interconnected caves are embedded with Maya artefacts, including ancient pottery and human bones that date back thousands of years.
GAM is backed by the Aspen Institute Mexico, National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), and National Geographic among others, and its findings hope to shed new light on Maya practices and beliefs.
Says GAM director Guillermo de Anda: ‘It allows us to appreciate much more clearly how the rituals, the pilgrimage sites and ultimately the great pre-Hispanic settlements that we know emerged.’